The Fine Line Between Finding and Stealing
It happens to everyone at some point in their lives. They find some money or an item that seems to have been left behind somewhere on their travels. Can they keep it? Is the saying “finders keepers, losers weepers” legally sound? As with a lot of law, it all depends on the exact circumstances. At worst, if you were to find something valuable and make no attempt to return it to its previous owner, you could face a charge of theft.
Definition of theft
Theft implies that there has been no force involved in the appropriation of something of value that doesn’t belong to the person who takes it. If you take something off a supermarket shelf and stuff it inside your jacket and walk out the store without paying for it, then this would be an act of theft. If you “borrowed” a car from someone and had no intention of returning it, then this would be an act of theft. If you saw someone drop a $100 bill on a bus and picked it up knowing that you could have alerted the owner of the bill that he / she had dropped it, then this would be considered theft.
Theft is the deliberate intention to commit a criminal act. It may be hard in many cases for prosecutors to prove that you had stolen something unless they can prove that the act was intentional. For example, if you found a $10 bill on a Miami beach and looked around to see if someone had noticed it, then taken it to the nearest police station or rung them up to see if the item had been lost, then it would be unlikely that you could be charged with theft. Raise the value of the money you found to say $10,000 in bills found in a paper bag in a bar, then unless you went through the motions of taking it to the police, you could be in a much trickier situation.
Basically, if you find something of value, then unless it can be shown to have been abandoned by its previous owner, you have no right to take the property if it was lost or stolen from its rightful owner. This doesn’t mean that you won’t get some reward for finding it, or even get to keep whatever it was, but unless you make an attempt to seek the real owner, you could be charged with theft assuming that your actions are made known to the police.
Penalties for theft in Florida
There are different categories of theft in Florida, ranging from petit theft of the second degree, a misdemeanor offense that could result in a jail term of up to 60 days maximum and a fine of up to $500 right through to the most serious theft offense, grand theft of the first degree, a felony offense with up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
If you do find something and are charged with theft, it is most likely to be a misdemeanor charge (petit theft of the second or third degree) or at most a charge of grand theft of the third degree, which is a felony charge.
Any criminal conviction is something that is not worth stealing for. It’s not just the penalties if convicted; it’s the long term effects of having a criminal conviction. There are good reasons why you have a reasonable chance of having a theft charge dismissed if you are accused of stealing something you have found. Prosecutors must show that you intended to “deprive the owner of their right to their property,” in other words you had no intention of returning the item found to its owner. Prosecutors must also show beyond reasonable doubt that this was your intention. If you have been charged with theft, but are adamant that you had no intention of stealing the item you found, then talk to renowned Miami criminal defense attorney, Albert Quirantes Esq., who will ensure you get the best possible defense. The Law Firm of Albert Quirantes can be reached at 305-644-1800.
Albert Quirantes: Your Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer & DUI Lawyer
For over 30 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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